How is it possible to catch big striped bass on a fly other than just being lucky?
I’m asked that question a lot. People who fly fish for striped bass are generally happy catching school sized, those 20 to 26 inches or smaller along with some mid sized fish from 28 inches up. It’s those fish on the up size one would call somewhat big. Stripers that really get noticed are over 30 inches and when they get to be over 40 inches they are considered by most to be truly big stripers.
I will be discussing how to target big striped bass, not just getting luck.
A big striped bass will test every aspect of your game. It goes without saying; equipment should be in top condition. Fly rods in the ten to 12 weight rating with plenty of backbone to fight the fish are recommended. I use a Temple Fork Outfitters Mangrove series rod. It has plenty of casting ability and fighting qualities. When that take and fish of a life time presents itself, you don’t want to be using a fly rod that isn’t up to the challenge.
You don’t need to spend a thousand dollars on a fly reel that will handle a 40 pound striped bass. That reel does need to have a strong and reliable drag. There are many fly reels on today’s market with sealed drags systems and plenty of line capacity costing $300 or less which will get the job done. I am using Temple Fork Outfitters IV, BVK reels for the job. The drag is strong. It is loaded with 200 yards of 40 pound
Master Braid for
backing and has a large frame which allows more cranking power. Leaders should
be 20 to 40 pound test. I don’t go crazy about knots. Barrel knots are used for
line to backing and to leaders. Hook attachments are done using a Cortland loop with two wraps
around the hook eye. Duncan
When targeting large stripers I like to use a 425 to 625 grain Cortland Deep Salt fly line, even in shallow water. I is amazing how little you fill get fouled on the bottom. I think current has a lot to do with that. Big fish like to stay deep. There are times on sand and mud flats in low light situations when larger fish can be taken using an intermediate density fly line. If you like that situation, don’t be bashful about using such lines.
(Page Rogers Big Eye Bunker fly patterns)
Flies are a lengthy discussion. In general, big stripers like big flies. That said, I have taken them with some pretty small flies at times. On average, I like to use big and bigger flies. Small hook sizes for me are 3/0 and 4/0 and usually I am using 6/0 to 7/0 while targeting larger fish. A good pattern available commercially is Page Rogers Big Eye Bunker in chartreuse color or black at first and last light. Just before the first rays of sun reach the water, keep the chartreuse color on. When the first rays of sun reach the water, keep the chartreuse color on. My favorite pattern is a 6/0 R2-T2 in chartreuse. Oh, did I mention that chartreuse is a good color?
Mid summer in
is my favorite time to
seek out a big striped bass on the fly. For me, being on the water, on station
to fish, ready to fish is 30 minutes prior to first light during the last two
hours of the out going tide. By
experience, I already know of two holding waters close to each other that
provide good opportunities. First, I will drift the spot prior to casting to determine
how the tide a breeze will affect my approach to the feeding lane. The
productive feeding lane might be a small as a kitchen table. Just like trout,
these fish will set on a feeding station almost every day. The difference is,
the condition of that station changes with the tide. You need to fish these
spots for many seasons to determine at what stage of tide feeding fish are
likely there. Maine
I will fish a spot for three to four drifts, making wide return up current on each approach. With no action, I will go to location two and do the same thing. And then back to location one to try again and repeat the process until the first rays of sun reach the water.
Continue this process all summer and you will catch a fish of a life time. Good luck.